Godzilla vs. Kong: It’s Good When It’s What’s On the Tin – HBO Max Review

The monsters are great, but the humans need work.

SUMMARY

Godzilla has been the unquestioned Alpha of the Titans (Kaiju) since his defeat of King Ghidorah, but now he’s starting to become wild and aggressive. Meanwhile, Kong has been in a protective covering on Skull Island to keep him away from Godzilla, as Kong would naturally have to challenge him as an Alpha. Kong is monitored by Ilene Andrews (Rebecca Hall) and her deaf adopted daughter Jia (Kaylee Hottle). Meanwhile, Bernie Hayes (Brian Tyree Henry), is a Titan conspiracy podcaster who is investigating the APEX corporation and its CEO Walter Simmons (Demián Bichir). Simmons hires geologist Nathan Lind (Alexander Skarsgård) to convince the team monitoring Kong to take him to the Hollow Earth and, in the process, to allow Simmons’ daughter Maya (Eiza Gonzalez) to harvest a power source for APEX. Bernie is joined by Madison Russell (Millie Bobby Brown), who is the daughter of two Titan scientists (one of whom tried to destroy the world in the last movie), and her friend Josh Valentine (Julian Dennison). The three discover that APEX is behind something that poses a bigger threat than either Kong or Godzilla.

There is no way that aircraft carrier could hold them. Its full load is about 100,000 tons and each one of them weights 90,000.

END SUMMARY

It hurts a little bit to try and determine whether or not this was a good movie because in some ways I worry that my enjoyment of the film was due to extremely low expectations. Not that I’m going to put it up for an Oscar or anything, and I’m pretty sure that the writing for the human characters (aside from Brian Tyree Henry who might have just been improvising) was literally pulled from a screenwriting manual, but I have to say this was pretty much the best kaiju fighting I’ve seen in a long time. If I were to describe what I wanted to see in this film, it would have been “I want to see Godzilla judo-throw a drop-kicking King Kong” and, well, that’s the kind of thing that this movie does right. The problem is there’s no way to do 90 minutes of that. 

There is a singing contest, of course.

The best Godzilla movies usually try to treat Godzilla as a force of nature or a metaphor. The original Godzilla was used as a metaphor for the Atomic Bomb and the most recent Toho film, Shin Godzilla, treated the character mostly as a threat for the purpose of establishing how Japan is treated by the Western world. When you treat Godzilla as something beyond humanity or as a consequence of humanity’s hubris, then it gives him an appropriate relationship to the characters as something almost inevitable or that can only be dealt with by sacrifice. While some of the Godzilla movies give him more character and emotion, but in those films he’s usually more isolated from the “real” world, so you don’t have to worry as much about how the humans are reacting to the kaiju. The American movies, so far, haven’t really gotten this right, including this movie, because Godzilla is still treated more like a monster or a wild animal than a force of nature (although they start to give him some emotion when dealing with Kong). However, since Kong usually IS treated like an emotional creature, at least the scenes with the giant ape actually come off pretty well. 

It is a little telling how unbalanced the fight is when you have to give Kong an anti-Godzilla weapon to make it fair.

The biggest problem with the movie is that the human characters, with the exception of Bernie and the absolutely adorable Jia, are mostly forgettable. There are too many of them and they’re often in completely separate plots throughout the film. Moreover, the plots range from “needless” to “insanely stupid.” At one point, in order to be present for the finale, three characters accidentally travel from Pensacola, Florida, to Hong Kong (it makes sense in context… no, it’s still insane). That said, once the film actually gets to having Godzilla and Kong going at it, it’s a hell of a fight and even has a few moments that were genuinely visually impressive. This film really put a lot of extra effort into lighting and framing shots as well as creative creature design and settings, so when it gets the plot and people out of the way, this is very enjoyable. 

The hollow Earth looks cool.

Overall, while this movie wasn’t what it could have been, it had enough fun visuals and a solid fight sequence to merit the viewing. 

****SPOILERS****

Also, it’s great that they had Godzilla win the fight. Like, there’s no question that Godzilla can kick Kong’s ape ass up and down Skull Island. I was worried they’d just avoid having a real winner by having them fight MechaGodzilla together, but they managed to do both. 

Enola Holmes: Great Performance, Fun Story – Netflix Review

Sherlock Holmes’ younger sister gets her own adventure.

SUMMARY (Spoiler-Free)

Enola Holmes (Millie Bobby Brown) is the youngest child of the Holmes family after her older brothers Mycroft (Sam Claflin) and Sherlock (Henry Cavill). Raised alone by her mother, Eudoria (Helena Bonham Carter), Enola is taught to be independent (particularly for a woman in the 1890s) and is educated in cryptography, strategy, and even martial arts. When her mother disappears, the older Holmes brothers attempt to send Enola to a finishing school under the abusive Miss Harrison (Fiona Shaw), but Enola escapes. In her flight, she encounters a young man who is revealed to be a missing Marquess, Viscount Tewkesbury (Louis Partridge) who is being pursued by a menacing man. The pair escape together before getting separated. Enola now wishes to find the Viscount as well as her mother while avoiding the eyes of the greatest detective in the world and his smarter older brother. 

A family of some distinction.

END SUMMARY

While I do read a number of Sherlock Holmes spin-offs, I don’t think I’ve read the source material which inspired this movie. I’ve heard that the books are better, but I can say that it is hard to write a character that can match Millie Bobby Brown’s portrayal. It’s not just that she does such a great job of portraying a smart outcast woman in Victorian England, it’s that she is unbelievably likeable. Even though her character often breaks the fourth wall and falls back on some overused tropes, she’s so charming that you don’t even care. A big strength is how much she can convey to the camera with just a look. Comedy, concern, caring, things that don’t begin with C. She also has great comic timing when she does her breaks and the deliveries of the lines in them, but she also nails the more somber emotional moments. It reminded me of Fleabag, something that wouldn’t have shocked me if I’d realized that Harry Bradbeer, the director of this film, was also the director of that show. Given the heavy feminist themes of both, I feel like this is almost the young persons’ introduction to the same humor that Phoebe Waller-Bridge brought to the screen. If they want to cast Waller-Bridge as an older Enola Holmes in a future movie (or as Irene Adler), I want everyone involved to know I will throw money at the screen with such force that Arthur Conan Doyle’s estate will feel it. 

This look is so damned perfect. She’s so talented.

Henry Cavill portrays a different version of Sherlock Holmes than we usually see. He’s more grounded than Robert Downey, Jr.’s version and more human than Benedict Cumberbatch’s portrayal. He is still brilliant, but since he’s not the focus, it comes off almost more impressive because we just see him working things out in the background. He also seems more caring, possibly because this is the first version we’ve seen interacting with a family member who actually likes him. However, Sam Claflin’s portrayal of Mycroft, who is essentially the villain of the piece, stands at odds with most interpretations of the character. He’s a misogynist, a classist, and tends to shout loudly. Additionally, he’s often wrong, which is probably the biggest difference from the canonical version. But, I will say, he’s a fun villain, because he’s really just a representation of an archaic mindset and watching Enola rebel against it is cathartic to everyone’s inner teenager. 

He’s the only version of Sherlock Holmes that can block bullets.

The actual mystery of the film is pretty great, particularly in watching Enola slowly unraveling it. She’s clearly brilliant, but she doesn’t have the practical experience of Sherlock Holmes, nor does she have the ability to operate independently, due to her status as a woman. She does a good job to try and overcome it, but often ends up just dressing as a boy to get by. Still, it’s fun to watch her work.

Louis Partridge is great as the Marquess. He’s very surprisingly quick and fun.

Overall, I really liked this movie, but now I need a movie with Phoebe Waller-Bridge as Irene Adler. I’m going to start #IreneWallerBridge on Twitter and see if anyone cares (they won’t).

If you want to check out some more by the Joker on the Sofa, check out the 100 Greatest TV Episodes of All TimeCollection of TV EpisodesCollection of Movie Reviews, or the Joker on the Sofa Reviews.

If you enjoy these, please, like, share, tell your friends, like the Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/JokerOnTheSofa/), follow on Twitter @JokerOnTheSofa, and just generally give me a little bump. I’m not getting paid, but I like to get feedback.